by Wil Henneberger
A few weeks before the Up in Smoke Tour visited Corpus Christi, I had the great fortune to speak with Tommy Chong on the phone about what to expect to see on stage at the show. He let us know that because Cheech and Chong were cultural icons, people expected to see their favorite sketches and the classic jokes that they have appreciated for decades. Keep in mind, Chong said this in the most humble way anyone has ever stated his icon status. We all know even the Virgin Mary gets a little pretentious now and again.
I am usually not a fan of predictable comedy. One of the main rules of comedy is that a joke is never as funny as the first time you hear it. I’ve heard a lot of Cheech and Chong material over the years and I was pretty sure I was in for a night of polite chuckles and respectful clapping. Either way, I was taking my mom for her birthday and she’s not the comedy snob that I somehow became, so she was bound to have a great time.
I am not ashamed to admit that I was completely wrong.
The show started with Mrs. Shelby Chong doing a short comedy set and then emceeing about 20 minutes of Q&A from two of the most charming and well-timed comedians to ever step out in front of a crowd. Sure, some of the questions were prepared and the jokes were peppered with hokeyness, but if you fancy yourself a student of comedy, as I do, it wasn’t hard to notice the quick-witted adlibs and off the cuff banter that makes this pair so great.
A weed joke here, an anal sex bit there, and before long, it was time for WAR to hit the stage for the first round of hits.
I was never really exposed to War’s discography, but there are very few people out there who haven’t heard one of their chart toppers, thanks to several movie and/or TV soundtracks. Low Rider and Why Can’t We Be Friends hit the airwaves back in 1975. My mom was in her teens… and that’s as far as I want to take that train of thought. None of us need to be thinking about what our mom’s were up to as teenagers while War was playing in the background.
After about 25 minutes of singing along to songs I didn’t even realize I knew the lyrics to, it was time for the carne of the show.
Cheech and Chong returned to the stage in full costume, which as you might know, usually means someone is wearing a dress. They proceeded to glamour the audience with back to back skits, to the tune of pro legalization, bellowed in the key of f*** the narcs. Every note had the crowd in stitches, me included.
As the duo neared the end of their set, War joined in for some of the musical bits including everyone’s favorite Santa Claus Story. The band then took the show home with a couple more tracks while Cheech, Chong and Shelby and my mom sang and danced along.
Seeing these pioneers in person proves that some comedy is never as funny as the first time you hear it… LIVE.